Michael Beeman's Reviews > The Stories of John Cheever

The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
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May 16, 12


819 pages of immaculate stories that go like this (from halfway through “A Picture of the World”):

" But my wife was sad.

“What’s the matter, darling?” I asked.

“I just have this terrible feeling that I’m a character in a television situation comedy,” she said. “I mean, I’m nice-looking, I’m well-dressed, I have humorous and attractive children, but I have this terrible feeling that I’m in black-and-white and that I can be turned off by anybody. I just have this terrible feeling I can be turned off.” My wife is often sad because her sadness is not a sad sadness, sorry because her sorrow is not a crushing sorrow. She grieves because her grief is not an acute grief, and when I tell her that this sorrow over the inadequacies of her sorrow may be a new hue in the spectrum, she is not consoled. Oh, I sometimes think of leaving her. "

Who has the gall to start a story this way? Only someone who knows he can pull it off.

Although the Suburban Ennui theme can run a little thick, every now and then you will discover a story like “The Swimmer,” or “Goodbye, My Brother,” or “The Country Husband,” or “Reunion,” any of which could be career-capping masterpieces in their own right. In the collected stories, these are the rule, not the exception.
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